Many of the vegans I know care about the environment, and get the connection between large scale animal industry and environmental degradation. This seems to be a no-brainer when you are aware of the phenomenal amount of resources it takes to produce a pound of beef, or if you know anything about the incredible amount of waste that comes out of large-scale pig and cattle farms (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg).
On the other hand, I also know plenty of self-identified environmentalists who fill their plates with meat and animal products at the end of their day of saving the planet without thinking twice. This something that has long confused me. After all, these are not stupid people; these are not uncaring people. But I have noticed that when I go to many environmental organizations’ websites, it’s hard to find any material that recommends that one of the most effective things you can do as an environmental warrior is to go vegan. The word is not getting “out there.”
And so I was delighted to see that a documentary is being made about this very issue – a film that promises to rock the sustainability world and open a whole lot of eyes to what’s going on behind this disconnect. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is due out next month. Filmmakers Keegan Kuhn and Kip Andersen joined us for a quick interview about what they have come up against in making this film, the indiegogo project they are running to raise funds and more. Can’t wait to see this film!
Vegan Mainstream: You know that you’re sticking your neck out making this film – why did you decide that it is worth the risk?
Kip Andersen: I only really became aware of what a controversial and dangerous issues this was after we had already began production. The very real threat that activists face for exposing this industry is frightening, but what frightens me more than the government repression and possible legal battles, is that we are literally running out of time on this planet. Any concern I could have for myself and my personal well-being is insignificant compared to what will happen to all of us on Earth unless a radical shift takes place. I can’t allow myself to be frightened into silence.
Vegan Mainstream: What do you think the most important reason why people (individuals rather than corporations) who are genuinely concerned about the environment are often not willing to look at how factory farming and our treatment of animals is affecting the very thing they say they care so much about?
Keegan Kuhn: I think there are a lot of reasons why people refuse to look at the realities of animal agriculture. First and foremost, a lot of people in our society still truly do not know the horrors this industry is responsible for. Mainstream media does not want to talk about factory farming because of financial and political connects, and even alternative media shies away from the subject as well because of what it means for them personally. I think a lot of otherwise conscientious and compassionate people don’t want to look at the issue because it is an extremely troubling topic on many levels. When we are faced with the atrocities of this industry it requires some sort of action, and many people don’t want to change.
Vegan Mainstream: You have taken precautions to try to avoid being shut down or targeted for trying to expose the atrocities of the agriculture industry, but have you avoided them altogether, and if not, can you talk about some of the obstacles you have had to overcome?
Kip Andersen: We stayed pretty quiet about this film during production. We didn’t do a big website or try and get a lot of attention for what we were doing, up until now. We knew that we needed to get the film finished before we could really start talking about it widely. We weren’t able to entirely avoid the controversy of making a film like this though. We lost financial backers of the film early on because they realized that this is a risky and dangerous film to make. That meant that we had to finance the film entirely on our own.
Vegan Mainstream: Through your indiegogo campaign you have raised over $70,000 so far, which is significantly more than your initial goal of $54,000 – and you raised that so quickly! Can you talk about the feedback you have been getting to this campaign, and why you think you have had so much support?
Keegan Kuhn: The response we have been getting since releasing our trailer and crowdfunding campaign has been incredible! We knew that the film would resonate with a lot of people, but we had no idea what an outpouring of support we would receive! We reached our initial goal of $54,000 in only six days and so we created a stretch goal of $108,000 to be able to do even more with the film’s release, like creating subtitles of the film in 10+ languages, foreign language dubbing and a 50-minute educational edit of the film for teachers to use as a learning tool in schools of all ages. I think the response we are getting has been so immense because there are a lot of people out there who care deeply about the issue of sustainability and feel frustrated that there isn’t more being done to truly promote it.
Vegan Mainstream: What has been the biggest surprise in the course of making this film?
Kip Andersen: I would say the biggest surprise of making this film for me was finding out about the impact livestock has on wildlife. The government, at the requests of ranchers and animal agriculture lobbies, are systematically removing tens of thousands of wild horses from public lands because ranchers want to graze their cattle there and the horses compete for forage. The livestock industry also pushes the government to hunt, trap and kill large predators such as wolves, mountain lions, and coyotes because they see these animals as threats to their business.
Vegan Mainstream: Why is this the right time for a film like this to hit the mainstream?
Keegan Kuhn: The issues of climate change and environmental degradation can no longer be ignored. People are waking up and they realize that changing your light bulbs and turning off the water when you brush your teeth isn’t going to be enough to save us from the ecological catastrophe we’re facing. For anyone paying attention to the news, it’s clear we are truly running out of time to solve the environmental situation we have created. All anyone has to do is look at what 30+ years of talking about “clean energy” has gotten us, and they will realize that we need to create an entirely new conversation altogether.
Vegan Mainstream: What are some of the ways you are hoping to get your film INTO the mainstream once it is complete?
Kip Andersen: We want and absolutely need the film to be seen by as many people as possible. We plan on doing a nationwide screening tour, followed by international screenings, but we know that the way films are primarily seen today and especially documentaries, is through online streaming such as Netflix and iTunes. Making the film as accessible as possible without degrading its worth is what we are striving for.
Vegan Mainstream: Are you still expecting the film to be released on June 19th; and where will people be able to see it?
Keegan Kuhn: We still have a lot of work to do, but we are racing the clock to have the film finished in time for the premier in San Francisco on June 19th. From there we will be doing premiers here on the west coast and hope to have the DVDs and digital download available by the middle of July, but that is all dependent on what we are able to achieve with the resources we have. We feel an immense pressure to get this film out as quickly and as widely as possible!
Vegan Mainstream: Anything else you’d like to add?
We still need to raise money to be able to reach as many people as we can. We encourage anyone who is interested in supporting this film to visit www.cowspiracy.com and our crowd-funding campaign igg.me/at/cowspiracy
Thank you so much for all the support!